Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Red Dwarf VII Episode 8: "Nanarchy"

Lister picks up a ball and Red Dwarf is returned. This is another episode where I feel like they weren't quite sure what they were trying to do. Half of it is about Lister dealing with life with only one arm, while the other half is about finding Red Dwarf which, despite pursuing it across the galaxy for over two hundred years as of the start of Series VI, turns out to be pretty much right where they left it. So much for that mystery. I really do think that this resolution, while unexpected, is a bit of a let down. The idea of a tiny duplicate of Red Dwarf roaming Lister's laundry basket is far funnier on paper than it is onscreen, because it is merely described to us in an otherwise visual medium. If they'd done something like put a sock under an electron microscope and them zoomed in more and more to some incredible magnification, ultimately revealing a miniature Red Dwarf roaming around, that would have been funnier.

I think some people consider this episode to be in quite poor taste given that it deals with disability in such a flippant way, and I suppose that could be justified. There is some amusement value in Kryten's overbearing assistance to Lister, such as with him dipping biscuits, and the conversation about one-armed people is kind of funny because of how stupid it is, but again it doesn't really make sense that Kochanski, who is well-educated, and Kryten, who has a computer for a brain, would have so much trouble coming up with examples. I also think the Van Gogh bit doesn't get the laugh it deserves, including the hasty way Kochanski includes it in the list even though it's completely irrelevant. Probably the best joke in the whole thing is when Kochanski asks Kryten if he's heard of "tough love" and Kryten replies "Does it involve dressing up?"

The "hand, pick up the ball" sequence is obviously the highlight of the episode, probably the best bit being the relieved way Kryten says "Oh, bravo sir!" when Lister finally accomplishes it. I really don't see why it's such a problem for Lister to be fitted with a bionic arm; they could have just adjusted it after these jokes were made, and as countless other people have pointed out it would tie nicely into the vision Lister saw of himself in "Future Echoes" as an extremely old man with a bionic arm. Then again, it's not as if any of the other visions of the future from Series I and II were ever followed up on after 1988, and I wouldn't expect them to. It would just have been a clever thing to include.

I'm sure the return of Holly was seen as a great fan-pleasing moment in its day, but in hindsight it doesn't seem necessary. If nothing else, the writing just isn't there to justify the character's return, and it's not helped by the fact that when he reappears, only two of the main cast members are the same as when Norman Lovett was last in the show. That being said, he gets a couple of decent lines, primarily "What was it, a cheap razor? It's just not worth buying them from garages, is it?" and "It's the way the light was shining on your... what's the word? 'Face', I suppose." The scene in the buggy is okay I guess, but I don't get why Cat goes out by himself. Overall I find this to be a bit of an anticlimactic finale. It didn't matter in earlier series in which the final episode tended to be just another story, but as a resolution to the missing Red Dwarf plot established at the start of Series VI it's not terribly interesting; perhaps if Kryten's nanobots had ever been mentioned before it would be more effective.

Thus ends Series VII. It's by far the weakest Red Dwarf to that point, but it's not without its moments. The show would need to get a fair bit more crap than this before it started coming up again.

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